Nerys Williams
Publication Date: 
Monday, February 27, 2023
No votes yet

What constitutes a republic? Not Wales, a nation subject to military claims on its landscape and a second home explosion which has hollowed out its communities. The achievement of a republic can be a subversive activity, as was the writing of Republic.

Republic is about class, culture and community in west Wales. It recounts the story of a young woman growing up listening to the post-punk music of the 1980s and indie labels of the 1990s. These decades culminated in the explosion of “Cŵl Cymru” and new devolutionary powers in Wales.

In Republic offensive attacks on the Welsh (and Welsh language) are dissected with satirical humour and an appalled fascination. A token female outsider on a TV panel show is tolerated but studiously ignored. Acts of civil disobedience are reflected upon. A male account of punk rock is challenged and all hell breaks loose.

Republic offers stories that are overheard, handed down, magnified, often translated from Welsh. Its sequence of 80 prose poems creates a patchwork of narratives which share the challenges faced by women, Welsh-speakers, and other marginalised groups. This volume arose from the need to tell an alternative social history, one that commits an oral history to paper.


Republic is a tour de force, a masterful account of the intellectual, political and personal. Pitched against nostalgia, Williams’s prose poems are tough-minded, shrewd and hugely evocative of the times she chronicles.” – Gwyneth Lewis

“Nerys Williams has written a ‘gold rush’ of a book, at times explosive and at other times meditative and soulful. Her magnificent lyrical inventions, veering from the zany to the profound, should make this a modern day classic.” – Menna Elfyn

“A west Wales Baudelaire in Dr. Martens... The music and the culture of the times riddle this wonderful work like a string of lights.” – Peter Finch

“This is a rampage of words, if Republic were set to music it would be Nina Simone meets Crass.” – Rhys Mwyn (Legendary punk rock musician, antiquarian and author)

“Each 20 sentence chapter is a gem. Nerys speaks to a generation growing up in Wales at a crucial age.  She transports you to the sounds of  her life in such a way they enter your own.” – Patricia Morgan (Datblygu)



Review by Mab Jones, Buzz Magazine

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

A flick through Republic by Nerys Williams and you will note that it’s prose, not poetry. Prose poems? Poetic prose? Maybe all of these, although in the introduction Williams refers to them as “prose scatterings”. I like this term. Each piece was created using a ‘restraint’ – common in poetry, and in short prose (flash) forms – namely, that each was restricted to just 20 lines. I, like many writers, believe that restraint can cause unusual and unique imaginative compulsions and creative outpourings, and that is what’s to be found in this wonderful collection, for sure.

The stories in this volume all come from rural west Wales, and from myriad sources / people. I personally love voices and views, as many of ‘em as possible. I was a contributor to the New York Times column Lives, for a while, and this book reminds me a little of that – you never know what you’re going to get! – but also there are echoes of Paul Auster’s True Tales Of American Life, which I adored.

I adore Republic, too. Like Hymnal, it’s told through the eyes of a woman coming of age, and there is that same questioning sense, but the ‘I’ in this collection is myriad/multiple, and the book goes so far as to call itself an ‘anti-memoir’, expanding on this to further challenge pastoral cliches and chocolate box ideas of Welsh places, as Bell’s Hymnal does, too, in its own way. This excellent collection comes with a soundtrack, which I would urge you to listen to, but make sure you get the book as well.


Review by Emma Schofield, Wales Arts Review

Monday, April 3, 2023

There’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of nostalgia every so often and Nerys Williams’ Republic has it in spades, but there’s so much more than just nostalgia going on in this evocative collection which twists and turns easily with each entry. The years twirl past with each prose poem, with Williams ably steering the ship through a second person narration and a heartfelt exploration of the formation of political, national and cultural identity.

It’s difficult to describe just how good Republic is at times. Music, memories and words collide in what should be a tangle of recollections; it should be chaotic and confusing and yet, it works. Williams is light in writing and her tone, moving with ease between reflection and amusement in a way belies what a tightly written collection this actually is. Dive into the collection and you’ll soon find Williams unpicking these very themes herself within the actual pieces. ‘Facing It’ is a powerfully delivered exploration of the boundaries between nostalgia and memory, weaving the two together without straying into sentimentality.

Just when you’re beginning to feel like you’ve got the measure of the collection, the rage appears and the frustration at the political decisions of the time explodes out onto the page. No subject is entirely safe from scrutiny here. I loved ‘Happy in Language’ which neatly captured the complexity of the way in which we perceive language and identity and was a reminder of just how little has changed in some of our debates over the past thirty years.

Questions over identity also rear their head in pieces such as ‘C90: Boxes of Culture’, which opens with the line “you realise that being a female music obsessive renders you a minority” and ends with the assertion of “a hope that culture is not a war to be won”. Yet what happens in between those two very cleverly crafted sentences does, in fact, feel like a war. Williams hones in on that internal struggle within the collection as a whole; it’s that oh-so-familiar wrestling with your own identity and what it means to be a Welsh woman, but situated against the backdrop of a time of transition from pre- to post-devolution Wales. The role of women in an evolving society is one of the pillars of Republic, supported by Williams’ reflections on her own mother and her work as a community midwife.

There’s no denying that the numerous musical references scattered through the collection will land best with those who actually remember the era and recognise the names of artists and the many lyrics strewn throughout the pieces. Those references ground the collection firmly within its context, but they also lend the collection a sense of variety. Musically, there’s a little of everything in Republic, from post-punk to electronica, Welsh-language music to 80s pop, there’s a hedonistic mix of songs which add another dimension to Williams’ recollections of life at the close of the twentieth century.

With around eighty prose poems in the collection, most around twenty lines in length, it’s worth taking the time to really sit with the pieces in Republic. Williams has spoken previously of her desire to create an “anti-memoir”, writing which maintains distance between itself and the material it covers, Republic achieves that. An extraordinary collection which pitches the personal against the political and lets neither off the hook.

User Reviews

Sorry there are no reviews yet for this book